St. Paul’s World and Legacy

The first section of Chapter 1 addresses St. Paul’s worldview and his use of narrative. I like the way Wright posits that St. Paul uses elements of each of the three worlds in which he lived, Jewish, Greek, and Roman, to propose to his readers a unique fourth world that pre-existed his conversion: the newly developing world of Christianity. This perspective clearly counters the notion that St. Paul “created” Christianity. Wright also addresses the narrative techniques found in the Pauline letters, emphasizing that they are not just literary devices that add decoration to separate theological content, but that narrative is the vehicle for the theological content that makes it accessible to all audiences, both Jewish and Gentile, ancient and modern. This is consistent with the technique of reading Scripture with an eye to all four senses that has been emphasized in other Scripture classes I have taken.

The second section of this chapter is devoted to what Wright calls St. Paul’s “legacy,” that is, the research on St. Paul that has been performed over the past two centuries. He goes into some rather particular details, but his main point in this section seems to be that, while a reader should always approach a text as objectively as possible, it is not possible to remove oneself completely from the context of the world in which one lives, and so reading of Scripture will always have an eye to its relevance in the current age. I particularly appreciate in this section that Wright does not propose an “impossibly objective” reading of St. Paul, but rather assures the reader that it is natural to read a text within one’s own historical context, and that one can never discredit the working of the Holy Spirit as scriptural texts are re-read with fresh eyes. In comparison with some of the positions we discussed in class and some that he mentions in this chapter, Wright seems to have a balanced perspective on the writings of St. Paul.

12 thoughts on “St. Paul’s World and Legacy”

  1. Very nice review of the Chapter. I liked the way you simplified the text. I agree his use of the 3 worlds was an interested way to bring it all together in what Paul was writing. In addition, the second half was very detailed but your summary was a well done in boiling it down.

  2. Beautiful job breaking down the themes and legacy of Paul in the first chapter. With respect of the three worlds, I liked the way the author noted that Paul was driven by the gospel of Jesus, in the world where Greece had taught people to think and Rome kept the population in fearful submission…. Paul’s legacy, the spread of Christianity and keeping the Churches focused and on message. The best…JC

  3. I agree, Monica, well summarized. It is just as true with St. Paul’s writings as it is with the Gospels, that they are alive and pertain to us just as much today as they did to those during the time in which he wrote them. His thoughts and knowledge seem only to be comprehended through inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Paul’s legacy is timeless.

  4. Excellent summary Monica. This chapter was not easy for me to get through. I though it was very dense. The idea of the three existing worlds and Paul then adding the fourth world of Christianity was a great concept.

    1. Thanks Monica! As Franz said, this chapter was very dense and difficult to get through for me. That said the “three worlds” of Paul show his genius. He worked very hard to bring Christ to the world.

  5. It was a great break down of the chapter, real like how you brought to light the three worlds. Because it leads us to a better understand of the point that Wright is talks about when he say religion, faith, culture and politics. We can see this with three worlds Jewish which is Paul; faith, then Greek; then culture he lived in and then Roman political world that the world lived.

    The part I like is when Wright talks about how we need to move to a exegesis of Paul.
    Thank you, and again for a great break down of the chapter.

    1. Monica, Thank you for the summary. I read this chapter three times and your summary and chapter four has help to understand it better. Its not easy trying read when you can’t see to well. but worth it. Greece and Rome, cause a new gray hair. Nicky I feel the same. History repeats it self. Yes, because of Jesus Christ, Paul’s legacy will never fade.
      Blessings to all.

  6. Monica, Thank you for the excellent summary. I struggled on my first read of the chapter but after reading your summary and rereading the chapter it came together with the three worlds in which Paul lived leading to to the unique fourth world.
    Your summary of the second section that Wright did of Paul’s legacy was great as there was so much information to take in and you brought out the best of it.

  7. This was a really good summary, Monica. I liked your simplification of the text and bringing into context the “3 worlds”. I never really thought about Paul before. I just assumed he traveled and would preach to anyone who would listen, but after reading this 1st chapter (and the chapter I was assigned), we can clearly see that Paul had a depth to him that was purely a gift from God. Looking forward to more!

  8. Monica, this was a very helpful summary. I could still use some help understanding Wright’s comments on Paul scholarship in the last 100 years or so. What the heck is Nietzschean understanding, much less Heideggerian existentialism (p.15)????

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